An interesting interview with the ever thought-provoking Roy Hodgson on Sky Sports News last week got me thinking. He said, using his experience in charge of Switzerland, that a squad of 23 players sould be carefully thought through.
Now this is hardly groundbreaking. We pay managers fortunes to pick 23 players to represent our countries to the best of their collective abilities. However, Hodgson's point was more subtle. He noted that in a squad of 23, on average, teams only ever used 17, 18 or 19 players. There were usually a good number of players who never played or, if they did play, came on in games that were won to give better players a rest or play in the final group game if it is a dead rubber. Even then there will be 2 or 3 players that may never play.
Hodgson therefore argued that the players on the periphery need not necessarily be the 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd players in the country and that if he had his time again he'd pick players that added something to the group in other ways (e.g. players who were popular with the other players, players who didn't sulk, players who kept the group spirit up; or young players who will go on to play a lot for their country and this could be a useful way of giving them big tournament experience; or old heads who can add experience to the squad which may be invaluable in training). It is pointless trying to pick 23 players who will play in games because they will not do so and, indeed, it would be bad to do so - it is much better to have a team that stays largely the same from game to game for fairly obvious reasons.
He didn't give any examples but hinted heavily at Jimmy Bullard - saying he was exactly the sort of player that every manager would love to have in training because he worked hard, was a fine footballer and kept the group spirits up. It is all too easy, in Hodgson's opinion, for those non-playing players to have a negative effect on the overall group dynamic possibly spiralling in to a Dutch-esque dressing room feud.
If this is the case, outside the core players who will play, who should Capello pick as these non-playing players? Should Fabio think about Bullard - the talented player who can lighten the mood and gee everyone up? Should he pick Wilshere, Rodwell or Welbeck as bright lights for the future? Should he pick Beckham for the vast experience he brings even if he is unlikely to play anything more than a substitute role? Or should he ignore Hodgson and take 23 players?
It is an interesting question - there are some positions in the England squad that seem to have a lot of depth (right-wing has Walcott, Milner, Beckham, Wright-Philips and Lennon) whilst others have a star performer with little depth behind (Rooney up front, Ashley Cole at left-back). Others are generally problematic - the lack of a world-class keeper and the faltering defensive qualities of the first choice right-back.
Questions, questions... if some players aren't going to play, how does Capello make them useful to the greater good?
PS - Still time to do the Left Back In The Changing Room Quiz